VON Thunder Bay

In 1992, the Victorian Order of Nurses opened an Adult Day Program in Thunder Bay.

Since then, the program has grown and evolved, and has become a big success helping many seniors in developing new relationships with others and regaining confidence in their lifestyles. Throughout the past 27 years, the Thunder Bay VON’s Day Program has had various homes, starting at the 55 Plus Centre where they eventually grew out of the space as participant numbers increased dramatically.

Originally the day program was led by Registered Practical Nurses, but that changed when the first Recreational Therapist was hired to take over the program and the program was moved to Hilldale Retirement Residence. This new space became unavailable after only two years as the retirement home needed the it back for their own growth.

The manager of the program, Lori Voth, quickly began looking for a new place, large enough for future growth, and in 2012 the Hilldale Lutheran Church welcomed VON, renting out the bright and airy basement space for the organization’s day program. Fully equipped with a kitchen, dining room, lounge space, and exercise space, it is perfect for the needs of the Adult Day Program which has served them greatly for the past seven years. The program is organized by two Recreational Therapists, Shannon Whale and Debbie Domney. Both have been working in the field for over 20 years, and plan on continuing for as long as they can. These women put their heart and soul into creating a safe space for older adults to stay active and social. The day for the participants consists of physical and cognitive activities along with a nutritious lunch and, on occasion, live entertainment.

“We have exercise programs and hour-long strength training. We do balance work, we do stretching activities and after that a cognitive based activity; so a mental aerobics game like word games. We play the odd one out and jeopardy trivia questions; we do word puzzles like wheel of fortune or brain teasers. Sometimes we get artsy and we have like a paint night where I can start the painting and I give everyone the same colour and they follow along,” says Whale.

The focus of the program is for older adults that may be at risk of social isolation. Here they can be comfortable with others their age and create new friendships enhancing the quality of life for those involved.

With a range of activities for seniors to stay active the list can go on forever. Starting with cognitive games some of the most popular consist of Name that Tune, History Quiz, Spelling Bee, Concentration, and Wheel of Fortune.

The physical activities can be a range from Balloon Badminton, Curling, Carpet Bowling and Bean Bag Toss “Staying active, staying social, having a good time. Yes, that’s the focus of this.”

With many more like card games, artistic activities, and baking the range is endless and so is the fun. “Oh, we have an excellent space for horticulture. We started 50 or 60 little tomato seeds this year. We have a new grow light that has 3 tiers on it, and we place it close to the window. As we all know everyone enjoys watching something grow and taking care of it. They all took four to five plants home with them and so they got to transplant them in their garden or give to the granddaughters or whoever they so choose,” says Whale.

There is a need for this program, with older adults not wanting to go into assisted living and wanting to stay at home with family. Often it is found that parents lose interest as family members move away and they lose touch with the younger generation.

This program is good for participants to be out of the house with people their own age in a safe place for social activities and offers the caretakers a day of respite and solitude knowing their family member is safe and having fun.

“Now it’s not always just for the seniors it’s also for their family members that they may now be living with. Allowing everyone time for themselves knowing that their loved one is in a safe space,” says Whale.

The program is currently available Tuesday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. allowing seniors to attend as it fits in with their schedule. With VON’s day program keeping the mind and body active in a safe and welcoming environment, seniors can feel the benefits of being included in a home away from home.

To learn more about VON programs please contact Debbie or Shannon at 807-343-9591.

This monthly column from Victorian Order of Nurses (VON) Thunder Bay examines Community Health Care programs and services. It appears in The Chronicle Journal on the last Tuesday of each month. Call VON Thunder Bay at 344-0012 for more information.

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